18 September 2007

Another good day

We wrapped up our first unit on Republic proper today, and the discussions were quite good. I have to keep reminding the students (and myself) both how alien Plato's world was and how much we (the students and their teacher) are heirs to Plato's basic project.

Plato's big question in today's section was how to determine who should serve the community in which ways. Always looking for reasoned organization, Plato sets forth that ability, not ancestry, should decide who farms and who builds and who fights and who rules. There's still no hint of the individual's choosing her or his own vocation (as far as I can tell, they hadn't invented that yet), but it certainly assumes that communities can organize rationally their division of labor.

Such a distinction was at the heart of 11:00's discussion: is Plato forcing people to be what they do not want to be by training them according to their aptitudes, or does a desire to want to do something for a living only arise when choice-of-vocation is a stated category?

In 8:00 we spent more time focusing on protecting children from stories for which they're not ready. The group basically agreed with Plato's schema, in which the lewd and potentially misleading stories are reserved for those who have developed the faculties for apprehending them literately rather than as straightforward positive exempla. The sticking point for that group was that in Plato's system, there was no set rule for when that happened. They agreed that setting an arbitrary age (17 for R-rated movies, 21 for dance clubs) was too arbitrary fully to be reasonable, but they also weren't comfortable with putting such decisions in the hands of the community's guardians.

Tomorrow we start revision groups, a tiring time for me. But it's good enough pedagogically that I don't think I could do a semester of comp without them.

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